Korn Ferry Bonus Survey: Professionals Mixed on Prospects for 2019 Payouts

- Training and Development Tops Wish List for Other Ways to Receive Incentives Besides Just Cash or Stock -

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- As professionals head into the new year, there is mixed expectations on the amount they will receive for their hard work and accomplishments in 2019. That’s according to a new survey of professionals by Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY).

The majority (88 percent) of respondents say they expect to receive a 2019 bonus. Forty percent said it will be larger than their 2018 bonus, 39 percent say it will be the same size as their 2018 bonus and 21 percent said it will be smaller than last year.

Nearly half (49 percent) say their bonus is tied directly to their individual performance, and 81 percent say their bonus is tied to the performance of their teams and the organization overall.

“To avoid adding to fixed costs with large annual salary increases, companies are regularly relying instead on bonuses to reward employees for superior performance,” said Don Lowman, Korn Ferry’s Global Leader, Rewards and Benefits Practice. “CEOs are quite willing to pay for solid results, but only if those results are attained.”

While the vast majority (85 percent) of respondents say they understand how bonuses are allocated in their organization, only a slight majority (59 percent) agree that the bonus allocation process is fair.

“Our research shows that increasingly, employees are talking with their colleagues about how much they make, including the size of their bonus,” said Lowman. “That’s why bonuses need to be structured in a fair and transparent way that focuses on objective performance metrics supported by a management process that is understood and accepted.”

While 97 percent of respondents say they receive their bonuses via cash, there are other forms of differentiated rewards that employees would like to receive. The largest percentage of respondents (30 percent) say training and development opportunities top their list, and 27 percent cited a paid vacation.

“While bonuses are a critical part of total compensation packages, leaders must also look at all of the ways employees are rewarded, including development and advancement opportunities, meaningful work, an energizing work climate, health and wellness benefits, a competitive base salary and paid-time off,” said Lowman.

About the survey

The Korn Ferry survey of professionals took place in December 2019 and garnered 1,028 responses.

Survey Responses:



Are you in a job that is eligible to receive a bonus for the work you completed in 2019?



92 percent


8 percent


Do you expect to get a bonus for work you accomplished in 2019?



88 percent


12 percent


Did you get a bonus for work you accomplished in 2018?



84 percent


16 percent


If you are getting a bonus this year will it be:


Larger than last year

40 percent

The same as last year

39 percent

Smaller than last year

21 percent


Is your bonus tied directly to your individual performance?



49 percent


51 percent


Is your bonus tied to the performance of your teams and/or organization?



81 percent


19 percent


Identify the way your bonus is allocated to you



97 percent

401(k) or other employer-provided defined contribution

0 percent


3 percent


Besides cash or stock bonus payments or a 401(k), what’s the top way you’d like to receive incentives?


Flex time

14 percent

More time off

14 percent

International assignments

7 percent


12 percent

A paid-for vacation

27 percent

Training and development opportunities

30 percent


Do you understand how bonuses are determined in your organization?



85 percent


15 percent


Do you think the bonus allocation process is fair in your organization?



59 percent


41 percent

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with clients to design their organizational structures, roles and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward, develop and motivate their workforce. And, we help professionals navigate and advance their careers.

Tracy Kurschner

Source: Korn Ferry